Saundra Mitchell, a queer woman who served in the military while the Don't Ask, Don't Tell act was in place says that she fears the wider implications that the ban would have on the lives of transgender military members.
In a now-viral thread on Twitter on Wednesday, Mitchell said that LGBTQ military service members who were reported under DADT, which prohibited LGBTQ people from openly serving, were given a general discharge (not an honorable one) that could deem them "mentally unfit for service."
The stigma of that designation, she tweeted, could stay with someone forever — a signal of the stigma that still shrouds mental health.
DADT was repealed by President Obama in 2011, but Mitchell fears that if transgender individuals discharged from the military under the possible ban are also given the designation of being mentally unfit for service, it could result not only in more discrimination but also the loss of particular benefits.
Mitchell tells Refinery29 that she had never previously spoken out about her discharge out of shame, choosing to tell people she had been injured. While she had been injured, she said, the subsequent investigation into her security clearance had revealed that she had girlfriends, and "they sanctioned [her] out from there."
"I was ashamed at being sectioned out of the military," she says. "I was sectioned out in 1993, which was a vastly different time for queer people."
"When DADT was repealed, I guess it just never occurred to me to talk about it until yesterday, when it was important," she added. "It had been a secret for so long, and I had been telling the injury story for so long, it was embedded in me."
To be clear, the proposed ban is still very much up in the air, and even if it is implemented, there's no telling what could happen to transgender military members' veterans' rights if they are discharged. But Mitchell's thread highlights just what could be at stake in Trump's call for a ban.
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